Yellow Line (CTA)
A Yellow Line train approaching the new Oakton station on the first day.
|Locale||Chicago and Skokie, Illinois, U.S.|
(avg. weekday September 2012)
March 28, 1925
|Closed||March 27, 1948|
|Operator(s)||Chicago Transit Authority|
|Character||Elevated, open cut, and grade level|
|Line length||5.1 mi (8.2 km)
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Electrification||Third rail, 600 V DC|
The Yellow Line, formerly known as the Skokie Swift, is part of the Chicago Transit Authority's Chicago 'L' heavy rail rapid transit system in Chicago, Illinois. The 5.1-mile (8.2 km) route takes nine minutes from start to end, running from the Howard Street Terminal on the northern boundary of Chicago, through the southern part of suburban Evanston, and to the Dempster Street Terminal in Skokie, Illinois, making one intermediate stop at Oakton Street in Skokie.
At Howard Street, Yellow Line passengers can transfer to the Purple or Red Lines of the CTA. The Yellow Line is the only CTA line that does not go to The Loop and is so far the only Chicago 'L' train that is fully ADA accessible. It is also unique in that it runs in a below-grade trench for part of its length, even though it has no subway components and does not run in an expressway median. It also includes grade segments and crossings at the northern portion of the line. It was built using the tracks of the former Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad's high-speed Skokie Valley Line.
Extending the line to Old Orchard Mall in Skokie has been discussed. At one time, the line had several intermediate stops in Evanston and Skokie, but these stations have long been out of use and dismantled. In June of 2010, however, construction began on a new station at Oakton, which opened on April 30, 2012.
Travel time along the Yellow Line is about nine minutes. Trains operate using only Budd-built 2600-series rail cars; each train consists of two cars, with 10 to 12 minutes of headway between trains. From Skokie to Chicago, trains operate daily between 5:00am and 11:15pm on weekdays, and between 6:30am and 11:15pm on weekends and holidays; from Chicago to Skokie, trains operate between 4:45am to 11:00pm on weekdays, and between 6:15am and 11:00pm on weekends and holidays. Average weekday boardings of 7,063 were reported in September 2012. Until late 2009, the Yellow Line was operated with Morrison-Knudsen-built 3200-Series cars that were specially equipped with roof boards that until late 2004 held pantographs. (The roof boards remain on cars 3441-3456 to this day even after they were all officially reassigned to the Brown Line.)
The Yellow Line begins at the Skokie terminal located at 5005 Dempster St. in Skokie. A stub track extends north of the station to allow trains to switch ends. The line runs south from Skokie at street level. After crossing Oakton Street, the Yellow Line turns east and crosses over Skokie Boulevard (U.S. Route 41). After the East Prairie Road grade crossing, the tracks rise to become an elevated route. At this point, the route passes the Skokie Shops CTA maintenance facility and crosses over the North Shore Channel. After passing over Dodge Avenue, the tracks descend into a trench. The line remains in the trench for about 1 mile (1.6 km), then passes under the Metra Union Pacific/North Line and Purple Line tracks to enter Howard Yard. The line then rises to serve the elevated Howard station. A stub extends south of the station to allow Yellow and Purple Line trains to switch ends.
The Yellow Line originally started as the Niles Center Branch of the old Chicago Rapid Transit Company (CRT). The rapid transit service began as part of the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad's high-speed Skokie Valley interurban line on a five-mile (8 km) section between Howard Terminal and Dempster Street, Niles Center. It was placed in operation on March 28, 1925.
The route included several intermediate stops through Evanston and Skokie (then called Niles Center) at Ridge, Asbury, Dodge, Crawford/ East Prairie, Kostner, Oakton and Main. On March 27, 1948, the Chicago Transit Authority (who had just bought out the Chicago Rapid Transit Company in 1947) discontinued service over the Niles Center Branch and replaced it with the #97 Skokie bus service. The stations were closed and remained abandoned for the next 15 years.
The CRT had always owned the trackage between Howard Street and the Skokie heavy repair and inspection shops and thus their successors, the CTA, would inherit it as well.
On January 21, 1963, the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad ceased all of its operations, and the remaining 2.4 miles (3.9 km) section of trackage between the Skokie Shops and Dempster Street was purchased by the CTA. The intermediate stations were not reopened. Some of the vacant station houses were used by other businesses, including a convenience store and an electrical supplier, before finally being razed in the 1980s.
The Skokie Swift
The Skokie Swift high-speed (5 miles in 6-1/2 minutes) service, between Howard Street in Chicago and Dempster Street, Skokie, was inaugurated on April 20, 1964, as a federally-aided mass transportation demonstration project. Participation in the net project costs was divided between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, CTA and the Village of Skokie.
The success of this project had attracted nationwide attention. On its first day of service, Skokie Swift carried nearly 4,000 passengers in a 16-hour period compared to approximately 1,600 passengers carried by the North Shore Railroad from the Dempster Terminal in a 12-hour period before the railroad terminated. Ridership continued to increase and by the end of the first year, nearly 6,000 passengers were riding the new line each weekday.
Because of the weekday success, Saturday service was inaugurated, with more than 2,000 riders. At the end of the two-year experimental period, 3,500,000 persons had used the new service, and CTA authorized operation of the Skokie Swift as a permanent part of its rapid transit system.
The success of the Skokie Swift route demonstrated that many motorists will forsake their cars when high-speed mass transit is provided, and to a minor extent, gave birth to the first use of light rail before the term was ever coined.
One of the distinctive features of the five mile (8 km) line was that approximately half was equipped with third rail while the other half was equipped with catenary left over from the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad. Trains switched non-stop from third rail to overhead and vice-versa using distinctive pan trolleys designed by Skokie Swift Project Manager George Krambles.
On February 9, 1992, Saturday service was discontinued during a service reduction by CTA. The "Skokie Swift" name was changed to the "Yellow Line" in 1993, when all Chicago 'L' lines were renamed for colors. The Dempster Street Terminal was completely remodeled in 1994, with a new station house and train platforms. In 2003, the old brick station building (designed by architect Arthur U. Gerber) was moved 150 feet (46 m) to the east, then was restored and converted into commercial property.
The Skokie Swift was the only Chicago Transit Authority rapid transit line to use overhead catenary for electrification. It was also the last Chicago Transit Authority rapid transit line to use overhead, as portions of the Evanston and Lake Street lines used conventional trolley overhead until 1973 and 1962, respectively. Third rail electrification was installed in 2004 to allow compatibility with other rapid transit lines, increase reliability, and reduce maintenance costs.
In 2008, Saturday service was restored and brand new Sunday service was added.
Addition of downtown Skokie station
A groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of construction of a new intermediate stop on the Yellow Line, Oakton–Skokie, took place on June 21, 2010. The station is located in downtown Skokie and was the first new CTA station built on any rapid transit line since 2001. The new station opened on April 30, 2012.
Upon the successful reopening of the Oakton station, it was determined that either the Dodge, Asbury, or Ridge stations could be rebuilt and reopened as well.. It appears the Asbury station has won approval but a timeline has yet to be established.
Extension to Old Orchard
In the past several years, The Chicago Transit Authority has been reviewing plans to extend the Yellow Line northward from the current end-of-line terminal at Dempster Street, Skokie to a new end-of-line terminal at Old Orchard Mall, a distance of about 1.5 miles (2.4 km).
After August 2008, two corridors remained for further study, the alignment along the Union Pacific Railroad (bus and heavy rail) as well as a combined track along Gross Point Road and Skokie Blvd (bus only). As of April 30, 2009, the two corridors have been narrowed down to one option - an elevated single track rail corridor that will follow the Union Pacific Railroad right of way. Under the most recent version of the plan, the Skokie station will be elevated.
|Station||Location||Transfers||Points of interest and notes|
|Dempster–Skokie||5005 W. Dempster Street, Skokie||—||Skokie, Bus Transfer to Old Orchard Shopping Center and North Shore Center for the Performing Arts|
|Main||Main Street and Skokie Boulevard, Skokie||—||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Oakton–Skokie||4800 Oakton Street, Skokie||—||Skokie Park District Headquarters, Exploratorium, Downtown Skokie|
|Kostner||Kostner Avenue and Mulford Street, Skokie||—||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Crawford-East Prairie||Mulford Street between Crawford Avenue and East Prairie Road, Skokie||—||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Dodge||Dodge Street and Mulford Street, Evanston||—||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Asbury||Asbury Street and Brummel Street, Evanston||—||Closed March 27, 1948; scheduled to reopen, awaiting funding|
|Ridge||Ridge Avenue and Brummel Street, Evanston||—||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Howard||7519 N. Paulina Street, Chicago||Red Line
- #22 Clark
- #N22 Clark (Owl Service)
- #97 Skokie
- #147 Outer Drive Express
- #151 Sheridan (Sunday Morning-Evening Only)
- #201 Central/Ridge
- #205 Chicago/Golf
- #206 Evanston Circulator
- #215 Crawford-Howard
- #290 Touhy Avenue
- #422 Linden CTA/Glenbrook/Northbrook Court (Overnight UPS Service)
- #54A North Cicero/Skokie Blvd.
- #97 Skokie
- #250 Dempster Street
- #626 Skokie Valley Limited
The Skokie Swift station on Dempster has two parking lots, a South Lot is directly adjacent to the Skokie Swift station and a North Lot across Dempster street. The fee is $4 per day for the South Lot and $2 per day for the North Lot payable in the fee boxes at the station. The fee must be paid with tokens which must be purchased from the token machines located inside the station. The tokens are valued at $2 each and can be purchased with cash, credit or debit cards.
- Garfield, Graham. "Yellow Line". Chicago "L".org. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
- "Yellow Line Extension". Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
- "15,000 Witness Official Opening of Niles Center "L"". Chicago Daily Tribune. March 29, 1925. p. 5.
- Buck, Thomas (April 19, 1964). "CTA's Skokie Service Opens". Chicago Tribune. p. 3.
- Garfield, Graham. "George Krambles (1915-1999)". Chicago "L".org. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
- "CTA to Add Weekend Service on Yellow Line" (Press release). Chicago Transit Authority. February 13, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
- Isaacs, Mike (June 21, 2010). "Downtown Skokie station breaks ground". Skokie Review (Skokie, Illinois). Retrieved June 25, 2010.
- "Oakton–Skokie Yellow Line Station Opens". Chicago Transit Authority. April 30, 2012. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
- "New Yellow Line CTA stops up for discussion". Chicago Tribune. September 15, 2011.
- Train schedule (PDF) at CTA official site
- Yellow Line at Chicago-'L'.org
- City of Evanston website on the public study to reestablish either the Ridge, Asbury, or Dodge station